Saturday, August 29, 2009

The pair of nuclear plant cooling towers above appears to be disappearing into the water. Read on and we will explore the reason for this visual curiosity. The small inset photo shows a nuclear cooling tower from a much closer perspective.


A year or so ago I stood on the beach at Crane Creek State Park on the south shore of Lake Erie between Port Clinton and Toledo and pondered the tops of nuclear plant cooling towers I could partially see in the general direction of Monroe, Michigan.

Driving to that park from the Sandusky Bay bridge on state route 2 you pass the Davis-Bessie nuclear plant and get a really close look at its single cooling tower. It is huge. Later research revealed these towers are often as tall as 600 plus feet with a diameter sometimes more than 300 feet.

You can see that tower from a long way off.

Why then, was I seeing only the top 1/3 or so of those towers across the western corner of the lake on that year-or-so-ago day? That was at a distance later determined to be about 24 miles.

Have you guessed the answer? Yup, those towers just north of Monroe were disappearing from view because of the curvature of the Earth.

Your line of sight travels in a straight line, in this case, tangent to the horizon. Because the earth is round, things beyond the visible horizon drop about 8” per mile. That’s 6 feet in 9 miles. You scientific purists out there should be thinking of the theorem of Pythagoras about now.

Actually, the apparent drop can be much greater than that because of terrestrial refraction—the bending of light waves in proportion to air density, which tends to be greatest near the surface. The thermal effects of variations between on and off shore also aggravate the precise measure of this visual phenomenon.

In the large photo above about 2/3 of the towers has disappeared from view. If the lake were another 12 miles or so wider in this view those towers would have dropped out of our sight—assuming, naturally, our viewing elevation does not change.

If you have the patience you can watch a big ship likewise disappear from view as it travels away from shore.

Me? If I am reclining on a beach it is quite likely my attention will be somewhere other than on Mr. Pythagoras and his geometrical musings.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Saturday, Fogeyisms probes a visual phenomenon usually only seen across a fairly large body of water. In fact, if the concept we are going to review were commonly known to early seafarers there would have been a lot less anxiety about the chances of sailing off the edge of the Earth. Part of our story involves nuclear power plants, a sample of which is shown in the attached photo courtesy of We hope you will stop by and enjoy the plunge with us.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


In a celestial feat any magician would appreciate, the planet Saturn made its wide but thin ring system disappear from our view Aug. 11.

Saturn's rings, loaded with ice and mud, boulders and tiny moons, is 170,000 miles wide. But the shimmering setup is only about 30 feet thick. The rings harbor 35 trillion-trillion tons of ice, dust and rock, scientists estimate.

The rings shine because they reflect sunlight. But every 15 years, the rings turn edge on to the sun and reflect almost no sunlight.

"The light reflecting off this extremely narrow band is so small that for all intents and purposes the rings simply vanish," explained Linda Spilker, deputy project scientist for the Cassini Saturn mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The rings remain a bit of a mystery. Scientists are not sure when or how they formed, though likely a collision of other objects was involved.

Saturn's equator is tilted relative to its orbit around the sun by 27 degrees – similar to the 23-degree tilt of the Earth. As Saturn circles the sun, first one hemisphere and then the other is tilted sunward. This causes seasons on Saturn, just as Earth's tilt causes seasons on our planet.

While Earth goes around the sun once every 365 days or so, Saturn's annual orbit takes 29.7 years. So every 15 years, the attitude shift puts the gas giant planet's equator, and its ring plane, directly in line with sunlight. Scientists call it an equinox, and this one marks the arrival of spring to the giant planet's northern hemisphere. (On Earth, equinoxes occur in March and September.)

"Whenever equinox occurs on Saturn, sunlight will hit Saturn's thin rings, the ring plane, edge-on," Spilker said.

Exerpts from:

Still curious: Search w/keywords-- Saturn's Rings Disappear

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Richland County town that wasn’t...and still isn’t

There is a crossroads down there; the intersection of Marion and Home Roads and a bicycle trail now exists where once a segment of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad moved people and commerce through the area.

Today, there is a sprinkling of homes around but none at or very near the intersection. The only business with Alta in its name is the well known and long established Alta Florist Greenhouse...just a chip shot north of the crossroads.

Regardless, the little circular symbol for a town persists on today’s maps of the county, proudly proclaiming the non-existent town’s location down there in the hollow about 4 miles southwest of Mansfield.

The origin of the town’s name appears in Baughman’s History of Richland County where it says that area is “...a stretch of Altanian country extending to the southwest....” The history goes on to say, “...this Altic country has a rolling surface of pleasant aspect and the sky seems to reach down...and kiss the rim of ridges that nearly encircle the plateau-like valley.”

Well, poetic jargon aside, bicyclists will readily admit Marion Ave., takes a huge bow as it passes by. Interestingly, what appears to be a level bike trail perpendicular to Marion Ave. actually peaks near that intersection with a geologic bench mark that advertises an elevation of 1,286 feet.

Elevations slide gently downhill from there to North Lake Park as well as in the opposite direction toward Lexington.
The land currently occupied by the greenhouse was part of the Northwest Territories under the land ordinance of 1785 enacted by the Continental Congress. It is painful to admit the politicians of the time didn’t get around to buying the land from the Indians until 1805.

The original tract for the greenhouse was a fuzz over 162 acres and was bought for $323.65 in 1814—the year the county was established.

By 1860 the railroad was making improvements with a 400 foot siding in that area. Since it was the highest point on the line between Sandusky and Newark it was named Summit Station and appears as such in the 1873 Atlas of Richland County.

The greenhouse, as we know it today, was started in 1923 by Sam Clever on 58 acres of his land there. Home Road was just rutted dirt then and Marion Ave, was surfaced with brick because it was the main road from Mansfield to Marion—hence the name.

Over the years there have been a lumber yard, a coal company and a roof truss plant nearby. In 1947 a company built pre-fabricated homes there. They were about 800 square feet in size and popular with servicemen returning from World War II. The president of that company was John Morley—well known in the memory of folks living in Lexington to this day.
Editor’s Note: My curiosity about Alta took me to the Sherman Room of the Mansfield library where I found a marvelous series of articles centered on the greenhouse and published in the Black Swamp/Firelands Trader & Gazette, Port Clinton, OH beginning in March 2006.

The author of those articles was local historian Eric I. Sayers who, by pleasant irony, was a neighborhood friend of mine in the 1950s. An enthusiastic discussion with Eric, for which I am very grateful, also provided material for this blog story.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Honey Run splashes like gossamer threads of satin as it plunges 20 to 25 feet while fulfilling its duties as a tributary to the Kokosing River in Eastern Knox County.

The rock formation over which it tumbles is Blackhand sandstone formed some 350 million years ago.

This visual gem, unique as the only waterfall in the county, is in a small grotto just southeast of Millwood. The falls is contained within two acres recently acquired by the Knox County Park District.

Park district officials like to think of the area as a mini-Hocking Hills with the rock formations and plant species which include hemlock, witch hazel, partridge berry and a variety of wild flowers.

The site is not yet officially open to the public but access is not restricted.

It certainly should be restricted to the Neanderthals who have left various samples of trash in this pristine blessing of Mother Nature.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

June 14, 1922 - August 14, 2009

When I got home from the burial of my uncle Whitey Monday I heard a rumbling clap of thunder in the far distance.

I found myself wondering if he had not just arrived at the Pearly Gates and told one of his whoppers.

That noise could have been God rolling around on Heaven’s floor in a giant fit of laughter.

Whitey was like that, with all due respect to his Maker, of course.

He was 87 when cancer stole him from us. He was a veteran airplane driver with the US Army Air Corps in World War II. Needless to say, as a pilot myself, I enjoyed being regaled by his lively tales. Often tens of dozens of them. Often in one lively session.

It didn’t matter that he was mostly blind in later years. That was a mere nuisance while he went on with the mirth of living and and the joy of caring.

Col. Arnold Whitey Love, USAF Ret., of Altoona, Pennsylvania the world is a better place because you were here.

Somehow I know you can now see my respectful and loving salute.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Bridge of Dreams crosses the Mohican River in Brinkhaven and at 370 feet is Ohio’s longest covered bridge. It serves as a trailhead for the 4.5 mile long Mohican Valley Trail to Danville. It also will one-day help link with the Holmes County Trail.


Recently my cycling companions and I explored further the abandoned railroad bed that one day will connect the current end of the Holmes County Bike Trail in Killbuck with the Mohican Valley Trail that runs from Brinkhaven to Danville.

On your map this hilly, rural, Amish-flavored area lies at the intersection of Knox, Holmes and Coshocton Counties of Ohio.

Coming from Millersburg to the north, the Holmes trail now ends abruptly in Killbuck. That is a very nice, fairly level ride on pavement the entire way.

A crushed gravel trail heads the other way toward a someday-connection with Killbuck, but, today ends in Brinkhaven. That segment called the Mohican Valley Trail begins in Danville just 4.5 miles away. (See the blog dated September 13, 2007 for a discussion on that ride.)

On the ride that led to this story we traveled that segment again then continued on to Glenmont another 8 challenging miles over this abandoned Pennsylvania RR bed that is mostly crushed cinders, somewhat hilly, virtually closed in 2 places and used almost exclusively by Amish buggies.

We certainly didn’t see any other bicycles.

After the Bridge of Dreams in Brinkhaven the buggy trail ends in a muddy quagmire before it crosses US 62 just east of Brinkhaven. To avoid that problem we hopped across that US highway near the covered bridge, wiggled through Brinkhaven’s surface streets which led us back to a short sprint on that highway followed by a quick exit left on the next township road which led to an unmarked turn back onto the abandoned RR bed—mostly visible as buggy tracks through the weeds on the right.

It is a little over 3 miles from Brinkhaven to the intersection of the trail with Holmes County Road 75. The trail’s surface elevation at the covered bridge is 870 feet MSL and you will have climbed to an elevation of 1,140 feet at the county road junction—where the second closed section occurs.

We eased west just 100 yards or so there and turned north on township road #14 which dips fairly sharply downhill with a challenging gravel surface where, within a quarter mile, you can rejoin the old RR bed, visible to the right.

From there it is a continuous downhill ride through heavy forest to Glenmont, about 4 ½ miles distant. A mountain bike with good tires is very much the correct bike for this entire adventure. Our main challenge on this segment was negotiating a logging operation as we neared Glenmont.

We also were very much aware of having to ascend this same grade going back while we began to wonder just how much further Glenmont was. That segment falls from the 1,140 elevation mentioned above to 881 feet MSL in Glenmont.

Some old timers sitting on a porch near the Glenmont Tavern told me about the railroad needing helper engines to give the trains a boost up the very grade we had just descended. That wasn’t encouraging news.

The four of us spanned the ages from the mid 60s to the early 70s and we logged about 25 miles for the round trip—Danville to Glenmont and back.

Someday this section of bicycle trail will help connect Cleveland with Cincinnati as plans currently exist.

I hope they hurry!

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Saturday, Fogeyisms revisits the Brinkhaven area where we explore an Amish buggy trail with our mountain bikes. Someday this abandoned railroad line will be completed and link Brinkhaven with Killbuck, OH; eventually to become a critical link on the statewide (Cincinnati to Cleveland) Ohio to Erie Trail. For now it is simply a somewhat challenging ride on crushed cinders through a beautifully wooded area of Holmes County.

The photo highlights the Bridge of Dreams; a trailhead in Brinkhaven, OH which led to our recent exploration of this future trail segment as far as Glenmont.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I was enjoying a campfire with new friends one recent evening when the pain of the announced closing of our GM plant struck close to home.

A young single mother at our campfire heretofore had enjoyed the bounty of several decades of employment with the auto giant--a very nice home in a desirable, suburban neighborhood; a shiny and relatively new SUV in the driveway.

“I have wonderful neighbors there, and over there,” she explained. “My babysitter lives across the street and that man,” she pointed, “fixes everything that breaks in my house.”

The community pool nearly touches her property. “The neighborhood kids can romp in that mowed field and really enjoy the creek right over there. The local school system is excellent.” she sighed.

“This is wonderful and irreplaceable and I’m scared.”

She did not cry but I think tears were close.

There is a remote chance of a transfer to another GM plant—somewhere. But she knows a friend who took that chance.

He sold his home in awful market conditions, was forced to hurry off to the new town and take a year’s lease on an apartment—only to learn he wasn’t so lucky after all. GM had made a mistake and he did not have that new job. Sorry!

She’s been offered a buy-out but it and chances of other local employment are inadequate to sustain her and service a mortgage and buy hospitalization and watch a daughter grow into young womanhood in her idyllic slice of suburbia.

Yes, she has had the good fortune of the excellent wages and benefits GM has been known for. But, she has played by the rules. This is not her fault.

She still goes to work each day but knows with painful clarity her American dream is about to be crushed.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


When you are walking in your favorite nature venue slow down and take a close peek at things. Peer under the leaves. Gently roll over an old rotting log. Your microscopic curiosity often will be surprisingly rewarding.

You will encounter insects, an amazing variety of insects. They are the most diverse group of animals on the planet. There are 20,000 species of grasshoppers alone; about 170,000 species of butterflies and moths, and, the granddaddy of all, the beetles, with some 360,000 species described to date.

Insects represent more than half of all known living organisms on Earth.

Insects are described as having segmented bodies with a head, a thorax and an abdomen. The head supports a pair of antennae. The thorax has six segmented legs. If it is a winged critter it will have two or four of them. The digestive, respiratory and reproductive systems are in the abdomen.

On a recent trek through my woods and fields I used a macro lens to record the top two photos and sent copies of my pictures to a favorite, local bug-ologist for identification. The best she could do was aphids for the tiny red critters top and a weevil below. Good enough for me!

While I was pondering the macro composition of the weevil photo the critter abruptly fell from its perch and plopped on its back on a lower leaf—and never moved again while I continued my photography.

I hope I didn’t cause it to have a heart attack.

The 1” diameter paper-like balls on my oak tree leaves are thought to be galls; often the home of a wasp larva. My curiosity stopped short of a surgical peek inside.

I was lucky to see the katydid (below). This green critter holding perfectly still on a green leaf was an excellent sample of natural camouflage. While they look like grasshoppers they are more closely related to crickets.

I can’t imagine what the huge glass eye of my camera’s lens must have looked like to these critters while I did my work. Most didn’t seem to mind my intrusion while they went about their business.

I chuckled while I imagined this situation reversed. If some giant critter approached my dinner table with a mechanical eye that appeared 30 feet in diameter I’d likely fade into unconsciousness like my little friend the weevil.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Saturday Fogeyisms is going buggy. Some would say more than usual. Recently, armed with a macro lens, we walked in the woods and fields and explored the sometimes microscopic world of insects and beetles. While we found our close-up peek fascinating, we hardly scratched the surface. There must be millions of them—per acre. Fortunately for us, the vast majority of them leave humans alone as they go about their Lilliputian lives. We hope you can stop by.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


This experience happened almost on cue:

I have a project beginning where I am making some string ties for square dancing and using Squirrel-chewed walnuts as the center piece.

While hiking the trails recently I found a whole, un-chewed walnut minus its husk and plopped it into a pocket for my collection.

A while later on the hike I began to feel a bit crawly. When I extracted my hand from that pocket it was polluted with ants.

Of course, so was my pocket.

You may not want to picture this, but, imagine a naked old guy being very careful to not carry any of those pesky critters into the house.

For those of you that do not know—I live a very secluded lifestyle and can perform such shenanigans without abusing any neighborhood sensibilities.

Ed. Note: I mentioned “...on cue” above because this weekend’s blog involves, of all things, “Bugs”.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

BIG Dairy Farm--

Nearly 270 head of cattle live and feed in this barn (above) which encloses just under one acre on a thousand acre dairy farm near Loudonville while a farm hand (right) herds the cows to the milk parlor.

High school friend from over 50 years ago, Dick Cleckner, (lower left) visits his sister, the farm’s owner, each summer for his dose of “Life on the Ohio farm,” he smiles enthusiastically.

The farm is not identified in this story because “Sis” is a bit nervous about potential world-wide exposure via the internet.

She sits in the sunlight of her living room window while a squadron of humming birds brings her pleasure just outside. The old, hand-crank telephone on the kitchen wall reminds her of time gone by as a loose cow meanders across the front lawn.

“The boys did a little work and forgot to turn the electric fence on,” she explains.

There are five barns on this farm stuffed with 300 pound bales of straw just to serve as bedding for the herd.

It takes 18 tractors, skid loaders and assorted machines to keep this milk factory-on-the-hoof running efficiently; manned mostly by two hired hands, Cleckner’s sister’s son and his two sons.

The cows are milked 3 times daily in a near continuous 12 hour rotation.

A refrigerated tank truck with a capacity to hold 66,000 pounds of milk sits beside the milk house ready to receive each day’s production. It fills about every three days and is immediately replaced by an empty tanker.

A calf trying to be born (below) gets a boost with a rope line around its emerging legs while momma cow struggles with a difficult delivery. This new arrival will be one of some 300 born on the farm in an average year.

Sis’s son, who runs the operation, summed up the economics of farm life this way: “It costs us $100,000 to put out the crops to support this farm. Just one serious drought and that could be gone,” he said quietly.

Topping that issue is the fact milk prices paid to the farmer are half what they were just a few years ago.

“It’s the only life I’ve ever known,” he smiled as he climbed into his tractor. “I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but, I wouldn’t trade with anyone either.”